LIFE ON MARS

Sci­en­tists be­lieve hu­mans could be liv­ing on the Red Planet by 2030 – but there are still ma­jor ob­sta­cles to over­come

DRUM - - In The Classroom -

NEXT to Earth, Mars is the planet in our so­lar sys­tem that’s most ­habitable to hu­mans. With Earth’s re­sources dwin­dling and its pop­u­la­tion ex­pand­ing, colonis­ing Mars could help hu­mankind sur­vive. Let’s take a look at what life on the Red Planet would re­quire.

FOOD

Colonis­ers will need to grow fruit and veg­eta­bles to eat. As Mars’ at­mos­phere is 95% car­bon diox­ide and its soil doesn’t have enough nu­tri­ents, plants would need to be grown in spe­cial pres­surised green­houses that would also pro­tect them against freez­ing tem­per­a­tures and vi­o­lent dust storms. For­tu­nately there’s enough sun­light.

PRES­SURISED SPACESUITS

In or­der to sur­vive the lack of oxy­gen, low air pres­sure and icy cold tem­per­a­tures, hu­mans would need to wear spe­cial spacesuits when­ever ven­tur­ing out­side

WA­TER

Hu­mans need wa­ter to sur­vive. There’s ev­i­dence that Mars not only has a north­ern po­lar ice cap, the soil close to its equa­tor also con­tains a lot of ice. Mi­crowav­ing the soil could melt the ice so wa­ter could be ex­tracted.

RA­DI­A­TION SHIELD­ING

Earth’s liq­uid core gives it a mag­netic field that pro­tects its ozone layer from be­ing stripped away. The ozone layer in turn pro­tects liv­ing things against most of the sun’s ra­di­a­tion. Mars doesn’t have a mag­netic field so a lot of so­lar ra­di­a­tion reaches its sur­face and colonis­ers would need ra­di­a­tion-shielded ac­com­mo­da­tion.

OXY­GEN

Hu­mans need oxy­gen to sur­vive. Sci­en­tists could col­lect the abun­dant car­bon diox­ide in Mars’ at­mos­phere, com­press it and use an elec­tric cur­rent to split its mol­e­cules into oxy­gen and car­bon monox­ide atoms. The oxy­gen would be tested for pu­rity and stored, and the car­bon monox­ide vented back into the at­mos­phere.

COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion on Mars would be made via ra­dio waves. To avoid ob­struc­tions, sig­nals would have to be beamed to or­bital satel­lites then re­layed back to the ground.

MARS ROVER

All-ter­rain ve­hi­cles such as this could be used by as­tro­nauts on sci­en­tific mis­sions.

EN­ERGY FROM THE SUN

Us­ing so­lar pan­els would be a log­i­cal way to har­vest elec­tric­ity on Mars, but it would be more dif­fi­cult than it is on Earth. Not only is Mars fur­ther from the sun, the planet is plagued by mas­sive dust storms that some­times block it out. This means al­ter­na­tive power sources would also need to be de­vel­oped.

EX­PLOR­ING

Even af­ter the first set­tlers have set up their base on Mars, fur­ther ex­plo­ration of the planet will need to oc­cur to find fur­ther hos­pitable places to colonise.

LIV­ING QUAR­TERS

Com­mu­ni­ties would be set up with en­closed walk­ways that con­nect in­di­vid­ual dwellings. This would make it pos­si­ble for hu­mans to move be­tween dwellings with­out hav­ing to wear a space­suit.

POR­TA­BLE POWER

Space­craft and the com­plex sci­en­tific in­stru­ments they carry re­quire a safe, re­li­able and long-last­ing power source. A nu­clear bat­tery – a ther­mo­elec­tric gen­er­a­tor that con­verts heat into elec­tric­ity – would be able to pro­vide the re­quired power.

GET­TING AROUND

To ex­plore the sur­face of Mars, as­tro­nauts would have to use pres­surised rovers that are ca­pa­ble of trav­el­ling large dis­tances. With only a third of Earth’s grav­ity and an at­mos­phere that con­sists mainly of car­bon diox­ide, Mars presents chal­lenges for hu­mans and ve­hi­cles alike.

SUP­PLIES Sup­plies sent from Earth to sup­ple­ment the out­post on Mars.

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